The Normans in Sicily Escorted Tour

3 nights starting from
£999

  • Cefalu with its magnificent Duomo

  • Norman Palermo – with a host of churches and castles

  • The superb Duomo di Monreale with 6500 square metres of mosaics

  • Exclusive visit to the private Norman castle of Caronia

  • Excellent lunch at the Agriturismo Margherita

The Normans’ rule in Sicily was one of the wonders of the medieval world. During their brief hegemony from 1072 – 1194, the invaders proved themselves enlightened and appreciative of the island’s former Arab culture. Their legacy can be found in vast cathedrals, castles, abbeys and palaces, which combine Norman, Byzantine and Islamic architecture. This three-night tour will follow their footprints from the busy streets of Palermo to the picture-postcard town of Cefalu. We shall visit some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the island and enjoy privileged access to the privately owned castle of Caronia and the Abbey of San Filippo di Fragalà. Among the highlights will be our visit to the Cappella Palatina in the Norman Palace and the cathedrals of Cefalu and Monreale whose gold mosaics rival the splendour of Venice and Ravenna.

Available Departures

From

07 - March - 2020 £ 999.00 Travel Info Book Now

Provisional Timings

London Gatwick

Departing: 07th March 2020 at 06:45

Returning: 10th March 2020 at 19:00

ITINERARY

Day 1: Fly from London Gatwick to Palermo. Transfer by coach to the Mercure Palermo Centro in the heart of the city for a three night stay. This evening there will be dinner with wine at a local restaurant. 

Day 2: Morning lecture and full day Palermo.
Following from a morning lecture by Gerald Deslandes - “The Normans in Sicily: Mosaics From the Martorana to Monreale”, we begin by visiting two adjacent churches built by admirals to the Norman kings. The Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio contains mosaic portraits of its founder George of Antioch and King Roger II. A remarkable fusion of Byzantine, Norman and Baroque architecture, it contains delicate Fatimid pillars carved with inscriptions from the Koran. In contrast the Chiesa Capitolare di San Cataldo is more austere since its decoration was never finished after the murder of its founder, Maione di Bari in 1160. We shall continue to the Palazzo dei Normanni, which the Normans transformed from a former Arab foundation, linking the building with arcades and employing Islamic gardeners to lay out the gardens. We shall then visit the Cappella Palatina on the first floor of the palace, which contains spectacular mosaics made by Greek artisans and ceilings carved by Islamic craftsmen. After an independent lunch we shall view the outside of two Norman palaces - the Castello della Zisa, whose imposing Norman walls are surrounded by more Islamic gardens, and the Cuba built in 1180 by William II and so-called because of its square shape. This evening there will be a lecture by Gerald - “The Normans in Sicily: Abbeys, Castles & Palaces” followed by dinner with wine at a local restaurant. 

Day 3: Cefalu, agriturismo lunch, Caronia Castle and Abbey of San Filippo di Fragala.
In the morning we shall visit the Duomo di Cefalu, built by Roger II, and walk to the harbour to see the washing places used by the Arabs. We shall continue to Caronia, a town whose spectacular strategic position has led it to be associated with Ducetius, the last 5th century BC Siculi ruler of Sicily from which the island takes its name. Whilst there we shall have exclusive access to the Norman castle of Caronia, which is now converted to a private residence. We shall enjoy a splendid lunch at the Agriturismo Margherita, whose owners grow and prepare their own food and grappa. We shall then drive to the Abbey of San Filippo di Fragalà, which was founded in 1090 by Queen Adelaide, the wife of Roger I, Count of Sicily. In addition to the monks’ cells, kitchen and dining areas, it has a striking fresco of the Pantocrator, Madonna and saints, which predates similar images in the mosaics at the Cappella Palatina, Cefalu and Monreale. 

Day 4: Duomo di Monreale, Cattedrale di Palermo and home.
On our final day we shall visit the Duomo di Monreale, built by William II the last of the Norman kings, and blazes with more than 6,500 square metres of spectacular mosaics. Among them is the earliest commemoration of St Thomas Beckett whose murder was at the behest of William’s father-in-law Henry II. Before returning to Palermo we shall visit the Benedictine cloister, whose columns were carved by Arab craftsmen and present a fascinating comparison to the mosaics in the cathedral. We shall return to Palermo and visit the Cattedrale di Palermo to view the Norman tombs and the altar of San Rosario, a lady in waiting at the Noman court who was later alleged to have saved Palermo from a plague and who became the patron saint of the city. After an independent lunch, we shall visit the Galleria Regionale set in the beautiful 15
th century Abatellis Palace. The gallery includes a stunning collection of medieval paintings and sculptures including several works from the Norman period. Transfer back to Palermo airport for the return flight back to London Gatwick.

NB: Exact order of excursions may vary according to local conditions and tour manager's discretion.

Please note the maximum group size on this tour is 25 passengers.

INCLUDED

  • Return flights from London Gatwick to Palermo
  • Three nights' bed and breakfast at the four-star Mercure Hotel Palermo Centro, based on shared occupancy of a twin/double room
  • Two dinners with wine at a local restaurant
  • One lunch at a local restaurant
  • Two lectures at the hotel
  • Transfers, tours and entrance fees
  • Gerald Deslandes and local tour manager, Tullio Scurria, throughout


NOT INCLUDED

  • Single room supplement
  • Holiday insurance 
  • Meals other than those stated 
  • Items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls etc
  • Porterage and gratuities

HOTELS

Mercure Palermo Centro Hotel
The four-star Mercure Palermo Centro is ideally located in the heart of Palermo, perfect for exploring this atmospheric city. The hotel's lobby bar offers an area to relax and unwind with a drink after a long day sightseeing. Free wi-fi is available in the public areas of the hotel. Rooms are modern and comfortable with private bathroom facilities, air conditioning, TV, telephone and hairdryer.

Mercure Palermo Centro Hotel Website

MORE INFO - Please click here for more tour information

YOUR LECTURER
Gerald Deslandes

Lecture One: The Normans in Sicily: Mosaics From the Martorana to Monreale

The first talk will trace the development of the great cycles of mosaics created by Byzantine craftsmen in the 11th and 12th centuries. It will explain how they combined Biblical stories with contemporary references and allusions to the rulers’ secular power. The latter can be found in what is believed to be a portrait of King Roger in the figure of Nero in the Capella Palatina. In the same way an image of St Thomas a Beckett, who was murdered at the behest of Henry II, the father-in-law of Roger’s grandson, William I - appears a few years after his death in the Duomo di Monreale. The talk will also look at the way in which Islamic carvers reinforced the work of the mosaic artists and how the Renaissance artist Domenico Gaggini added Florentine details and three-dimensional space.

Lecture Two: The Normans in Sicily: Abbeys, Castles & Palaces

The second talk will concentrate on the Normans’ fusion of Arab, Byzantine and northern European culture in their castle at Caronia, the monastery of San Felipo di Fragola and the palaces of La Cuba and the Castello della Zisa. Such fusion extended beyond the merging of architectural styles to include the Normans’ love of Arab music, poetry, gardening and cuisine. It will look at the recent archaeological finds that have made in Palermo, which suggest the Normans’ use of Islamic carving and ceramics. It will also use images of artworks in the Museo Reggionale to explain the way in which the courtly lifestyle adopted by the Normans persisted in later centuries.

Further details can be found at:  http://geralddeslandes.tumblr.com/ see Upside Down Normans

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One star deducted from the accomodation rating because at the Hotel Mercure Centro I was disappointed to find that my room was a pokey single, which rankles even more when you've paid the single-person supplement. I am told on my return that this is an on-going and frequent problem, which didn't really help me. There was not even room for a bedside table!

Review by Cotton who travelled 09-March-2019


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This 4-day tour was ideal for me as I did not want to be away for any longer, and the maximum use of the time available was made by the tour programme. Gerald Deslandes additionally offered some extra (i.e., not in the original programme) church and museum visits to those who wished to accompany him on these, and this was much appreciated. The very experienced local guide was excellent. There were few extra cash expenses required which was good. The hotel single room was quite small (whereas the bathroom was relatively large), but the single supplement of £40 per night was not excessive, in view of the bathroom.

Review by Anonymous who travelled 09-March-2019


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Excellent taster tour

Review by Anonymous who travelled 09-March-2019


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In general the tour was excellent - well presented by Gerald and the two Italian guides - Tullio and Laura (in Palermo) - who were able to give both historical and modern information about Palermo and the region. Arrangements to meet very complex timetable and coach parking arrangements worked well so we saw all that was promised and a bit more was described as we passed in the coach during transfers. Hotel slightly chaotic but all problems dealt with by the staff in good time. Very early Easyjet flight out adds an extra day to the tour for those not in easy reach of Gatwick, as can late arrival back into Gatwick. But these do allow for maximum time in Palermo.

Review by Hartman-Pearce who travelled 09-March-2019


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A really strong team made this a most enjoyable and memorable holiday. Tullio, tour manager, quietly but superbly liaised locally and ensured that none of us got lost, Mario inspired confidence with safe driving in a comfortable coach. Laura, our Italian guide, regaled us with local history with gentle humour and explained fascinating Byzantine iconography, and last but not least Gerald Deslandes's lectures and commnentary gave us historical and cultural connections that added greatly to the tour. The excursions were well paced, so that we saw the most important buildings, had a wonderful lunch in a mountain village, but dint spend TOO long travelling in the coach. Laura's whisper phones were excellent, as it meant we could hear her clearly even outside with general noise around us. Good also that she didnt have to shout in churches. The hotel was good, though i think our room would be uncomfortably hot in summer unless there was air conditioning? It was a delight to be with like-minded people in the group. We appreciated Gerald's suggestion that we get ourselves taxis when there was steep climbing to do. It was a very intensive 4 days, well planned, though perhaps I would have liked a little more time to explore souvenir shops etc. I would also have liked more help before getting on flights etc. to be sure about security regulations as it is some time since we have been abroad.

Review by McGowan who travelled 09-March-2019


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Gerald Deslandes was a charming and capable tour leader, but I had expected someone with a higher level of expertise. His enthusiasm was commendable and he was a very pleasant travelling companion, but I came with mistaken expectations. Tullio was a really effective and hugely impressive tour manager.

Review by Everett who travelled 09-March-2019


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Review by Johnson who travelled 10-March-2018


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This was our first guided tour Tour manage Gerald was knowledgable and a sensitive and skilled tour leader. The visits were well chosen, altho the trip to the ruined monastery on day 3 involved a great deal of mountainous coach travel. I would recommend without hesitation. Mike Drake (passport name John Drake)

Review by Drake who travelled 10-March-2018


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Review by who travelled 10-March-2018


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The trip was most enjoyable and a good introduction to the fascinating history and culture of Sicily. Gerald Deslandes is an excellent lecturer and a most thoughtful and attentive guide. His Italian colleagues were equally friendly and helpful.

Review by Sadowski who travelled 10-March-2018


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Review by who travelled 10-March-2018


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The tour was very interesting. The team of Gerald, Tulio, Laura and Mario was excellent- they never flapped in spite of the fact that some of the group clearly were not really physically up to the tour. The only thing I would have liked would have been more free time - all the days were pretty full on, some days we didn't really have time for coffee breaks. I would still recommend the tour.

Review by who travelled 10-March-2018


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Gerald and Trujillo both excellent and looked after us well.

Review by Ridley who travelled 10-March-2018


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The change to an early flight on outward journey was not well handled. The administrators did not bring it to travellers attention. The Tour itself was a great success and made particularly interesting by our 3 splendid guides

Review by Wilson who travelled 10-March-2018


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Although much was seen the party was not rushed, and care taken to arrange taxis for the less able. As well as the main guide, two others provided additional information. Very enjoyable and informative.

Review by Buchanan who travelled 10-March-2018


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Review by Mrs Gillian Walkley who travelled 11-March-2017


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Review by Miss Jill Seymour who travelled 11-March-2017


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Excellent guides and all very well run. Mosr enjoyable. (Just a shame about the single person supplement!)

Review by Mrs Mary Watts who travelled 11-March-2017


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Review by Mrs Susan Dev who travelled 11-March-2017


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An excellent trip enhanced by excellent lecturers Laura and Gerald who were erudite and kindly. The tour manager Tullio and the driver Mario were most accommodating and helpful and the whole thing was well organised. It was a shame, being English, that the tea and coffee-making facilities in the rooms that had been expected, were missing.

Review by Mrs Susan Raymond who travelled 11-March-2017


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Review by Mrs Gillian Gunning who travelled 11-March-2017


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Review by Mrs Elizabeth Edwards who travelled 11-March-2017


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I very good trip. It sometimes seemed a little hurried, with but I wonder whether it really was so. The leader was often asking us to make visits "brief" and all that sort of thing, but we seemed to have enough time usually.

Review by Mr Trevor Davis who travelled 05-March-2016


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Review by who travelled 05-March-2016


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Tullio, and Gerald both excellent, everything went smoothly and we thoroughly enjoyed our holiday. Thought the way meals were arranged most satisfactory, no hanging around (and nobody every kept the coach waiting!) Many thanks to everyone involved.

Review by Mr Tony Hunt who travelled 05-March-2016


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Review by who travelled 05-March-2016


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It was really good to have a genuine Sicilian as the tour manager as he was able to give real insight into the history and current state of the island. Gerald was also excellent. Particularly good on arranging toilet breaks - boring but important. On the strength of this experience I will definitely be booking another trip with Travel editions

Review by Mrs Gretel Jones who travelled 05-March-2016


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I felt the visits on the last day were too short. We should have had more time in the Monreale Cathedral and Museum. Less time for cafe and lunch. The guiding throughout was very good and helpful. Driver Mario excellent too.

Review by Mr A Seth-Smith who travelled 05-March-2016


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Tulip was brilliant. I lost my mobile on the journey out (it later transpired it was on the Easyjet flight). Tulip recovered it for me and used his own mobile whilst doing so. He also kept his 'flock' together and on time - no easy task! Gerald and Lara made every day information-packed and understandable. Thank you all for a lovely holiday.

Review by Mrs Hilary Pointing who travelled 05-March-2016


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Review by Mr James Botten who travelled 05-March-2016


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No criticism - another day in Palermo at end of tour would be good, with opportunity for walking around once familiarised with town. Difficult to do in groups with narrow streets and no pavements. And a visit to a puppet show would be fantastic! Mario our driver and Tullio our TM were exceptionally helpful and on the ball.

Review by Mrs Christine O'Callaghan who travelled 05-March-2016


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Another wonderful tour with Gerald Deslandes. Local guide Tullio was very good and our guide Laura in Palermo excellent! We could have done with some free time on another day, not Sunday when everything was closed.

Review by Mrs Pamela Blackley who travelled 05-March-2016


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